With the first perceived domino of what could be a very active trade deadline falling today in the form of Kyle Korver going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, everyone’s thoughts naturally shifted to what the next few weeks might have in store for the Los Angeles Lakers. If you go by what Mitch Kupchak said to Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Bresnahan Thursday, it doesn’t look like much.
Now, the obvious caveat is this is Mitch Kupchak we’re talking about and he never gives anything away, but compared to how he’s handled questions like this in the past, these are about as close to a concrete answers as you’ll find.
On how the Lakers are handling the lead-up to the trade deadline (all quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet):
It’s actually a little active now and I know you read about it. You’ll see some names of players. You haven’t seen names of our players. We’re not actively trying to do something. I would guess that we would not end up doing anything.
That last sentence is the one that will be aggregated throughout the Lakers and general NBA blogosphere. Again, this is Mitch Kupchak, who is a legit master at saying a bunch of stuff without necessarily really saying anything.
Then we get the typical disclaimer:
But you have seven weeks to walk it through and we’ll know more about our team certainly within seven weeks. We’ll know more about our team within the next two or three weeks. I mentioned earlier we’re not out of the playoff hunt.
Which is then followed by another rather straightforward (again, grading on a curve) morsel of where it seems he and the rest of the Lakers front office currently sees the roster they’ve put together.
I’d hate to look to do something with our younger players. I think our older players have given us great leadership. Some guys are on one year contracts, which makes them more difficult to move. So, based on my feel for the league, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll do something. But it is part of a GM’s job to look at opportunities, to make calls, to receive calls, and as you said, we have six or seven weeks, so we’ll see where we end up.
Bresnahan then followed up by asking if anyone on this roster is untouchable:
I don’t think anyone is untouchable. We had a player for 20 years who I guess would be untouchable, you know, Kobe Bryant. But we don’t have a Kobe Bryant right now. We’re hopeful some of those guys can have careers that approach what Kobe’s done, but we don’t know that right now.
There are the general talking points we all know and love! Citing Kobe as the closest thing he knows to untouchable is basically Kupchak saying these guys are pretty close to untouchable. He goes on:
But I like the young guys on the team. I don’t think our mix is such that we have too many players. I think it’s a good mix. If you had eight or nine young players and three or four old veterans, that might not be good. We have six young players, one of which (Ivica Zubac) doesn’t play much, so we really only have five.
So, a few notes: First, as stated above, this is about as close as Kupchak will ever get to outright stating anything. Honestly, if you were to ask him about the weather, there’s a good chance he’d look up and start talking about past days. So, if we’re operating with that as the understanding, this is pretty telling about how comfortable the front office feels with the organization’s direction.
Now, does this include the business side of the organization (read: Jeanie Buss)? There’s no way of knowing this. All we can say right now is that it’s good to see it doesn’t seem like Kupchak, Jerry Buss or anyone for that matter are prepared to make a knee-jerk move to save their jobs.
Look, I know patience is hard. It would be pretty cool to wake up and find out the Lakers miraculously acquired Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George or whomever. Heck, as the season goes along and if those guys become legitimately available, it would be outright negligent for the Lakers not to look into a potential trade. As of now, though, Laker fans can take solace in the fact that it seems everyone is here for the journey that a proper, sustainable rebuild is in today’s NBA.
The last two games have provided a pretty great microcosm of what it’s like to root for such a rebuild. One, night, everything clicks and you wouldn’t trade D’Angelo Russell or his teammates for anything. The next, they collapse in the second half and you’re wondering what it might take to get any of the aforementioned potentially-available All-Stars.
The ups and downs are maddening, but it’s all part of the process, which can be more enjoyable as a whole than the eventual destination. It seems Kupchak is ready to ride this one out.
In the interview, Kupchak also graded Luke Walton’s job thus far, as well as how the new CBA might affect the Lakers. It’s all definitely worth your time. If you don’t mind, however, I’m going to jump back on ESPN’s Trade Machine for no real reason whatsoever.